The New York Islanders are celebrating a milestone this season. The other hockey team from New York is turning 50 and even a Rangers fan such as myself can pause to pay homage to a rival franchise.
Founded in 1972, the Islanders immediately made an impact at the time when the NHL was looking to grow. After just two years of existence, the Isles would go on to secure 14 consecutive playoff berths. It was during that impressive run that the Islanders captured four straight Stanley Cups, dominating the league between 1980 and 1983.
The team’s 19 straight playoff series victories – spanning a time between 1980 and 1984 – remain a feat that is the envy of any North American sports team. The Islanders remain the last team of any major U.S. sport to win four consecutive championships.
The team’s heyday, however, was followed by an era plagued by scandal, mismanagement and low attendance. The team has failed to win a division title since 1988 and went a staggering 22 seasons without winning a playoff series, a negative streak that finally ended in 2016. The team moved into a new arena last season, trading the famed Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for the new UBS Center.
Collectors interested in Islanders memorabilia and collectables, both past and present, will focus their energies on the eight former members of the team inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, seven of whom (Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Bryan Trottier, coach Al Arbour and general manager Bill Torrey) were all key members of that early ‘80s dynasty.
From trading cards and autographs to more whimsical items such as music albums and bobbleheads, here are a series of collectibles you may want to add to your wish list (especially now as the holidays draw closer) to commemorate the Islanders’ milestone season.
Islanders Christmas Album
Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Burl Ives and … the Islanders?
Yep, the Islanders put out a Christmas album in 1979 called “Home for the Holidays.” You could find this vinyl album at your vintage record store or yard sale, but don’t fret if you’ve never seen it in the wild. You can listen to the album on the Puck Junk YouTube channel (Side One / Side Two).
The album has 10 songs on it, including such holiday hits as “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Frosty the Snowman.”
Oddly, it isn’t the only Islanders album out there. “The Chemistry Was Just Right! (The Exciting Story of The N.Y. Islanders)” was released in 1980 and includes play-by-play calls of the team’s 1980 march to the Stanley Cup.
Ralph Macchio Islanders Bobblehead
The most famous Islanders fan is 1980s icon Ralph Macchio. “The Karate Kid” star became the focus of an Islanders giveaway in 2016.
The figure features Macchio in an Islanders uniform – replete with skates – as his left leg hangs in the air, re-enacting the famous crane kick he made famous while playing Daniel LaRusso in the 1984 fight flick.
The bobblehead isn’t the only Macchio-related Islanders tribute. Macchio was featured on a Pro Set Platinum card released during the 1991-92 season. The set also included other notable actors such as Fred Rogers and James Belushi.
Mike Bossy Rookie Card
The greatest Islanders player has to be Mike Bossy. The Montreal native, who played right wing, died this past April 15 at age 65.
Bossy won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1978 as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year when he set the then-record for most goals by a first-year pro with 53. He also captured the Conn Smythe Trophy in the 1982 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Bossy’s rookie card can be found in the 1978-79 O-Pee-Chee and Topps hockey sets. He also appears on a “Highlights Card” under the caption, “Mike Bossy Sets Record for Goals by a Rookie.” Both cards remain affordable considering how great of a player he was and for winning four Stanley Cups.
Denis Potvin Signed Photos
Bossy’s teammate Denis Potvin was one of the best defenseman of the early 1980s. He, too, was a big part of the Islanders dynasty. A three-time James Norris Memorial Trophy winner, Potvin remains a fan favorite decades later.
Potvin autographs remains accessible (he makes appearances at card shows in the United States and Canada) and aren’t as pricy compared to other ‘80s stars like Paul Coffey and Ray Bourque.
Potvin remains largely underrated. He played 15 seasons – all with the Islanders – and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991. Like Bossy, he is and Islanders legend.
Pat LaFontaine Autographed Cards
A Hall of Famer not part of that magical early ‘80s Islanders team is Pat LaFontaine. He arrived in 1983, the end of the Isles’ winning era, but was nonetheless a great player. Most notably, he scored the winning goal in the 1987 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the fourth overtime period of Game 7 against the Washington Capitals, a game known as the “Easter Epic.”
LaFontaine is the only player in NHL history to play for three teams from the same state. Aside from the Islanders, he also suited up for the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres.
LaFontaine autographs are accessible. They appear in a variety of sets over the years and he is a TTMer with a donation to his foundation for hospitalized children known as Companions in Courage.
Clemente Lisi is a lifelong Rangers fan who first started collecting cards in 1986. He collects both vintage and modern with a focus on rookie cards. Follow him on Twitter @ClementeLisi.